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Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?
number of key engineering ideas, such as systems thinking, models, and optimization (NYSDE, 1996b). Engineering design is also addressed in the New York standards for technology education.
Tennessee K–12 science standards include “embedded technology and engineering standards” alongside science standards at each K–12 grade band (TDE, 2009). Design and Technology, one of seven sections in Vermont’s science, mathematics, and technology standards, includes standards related to technological systems, outputs and impacts, and designing solutions (State of Vermont DOE, 2000).
Massachusetts’ Standards for Science and Technology/Engineering includes a separate set of “engineering/technology” standards (MDOE, 2006). The state also has an assessment in place that includes engineering-related items. One way to satisfy the science requirements for graduation in Massachusetts is to pass the technology/engineering assessment. However, very few students at the high school level have opted to take the test. In 2009, just 2 percent of ninth graders and 1 percent of tenth graders did so (MDESE, 2009). Most students chose to satisfy this requirement by taking an assessment in either biology or physics.
The 10-year process that led to the inclusion of engineering in the Massachusetts K–12 standards highlights some of the challenges to the infusion approach. For example, three of the key stakeholder groups—science educators, technology educators, and the engineering community—often disagreed about where engineering belonged in the curriculum.4 Foster (2009) noted that this disagreement affected how readily technology/engineering was accepted as an element in the science curriculum.
The state has added licensure processes for new technology/engineering teachers, but very few are being trained. The fact that the existing pool of technology educators was grandfathered into the new system has caused confusion about who is actually qualified to teach engineering. A remaining problem, according to Foster, is that technology/engineering coursework is not counted as science credit for the purposes of college admission by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education or by the National Collegiate Athletic Association for the purposes of scholarship eligibility. These examples illustrate some of the difficult issues involved in standards implementation.
The Mapping Approach
In this report, “mapping” is understood as drawing attention explicitly to how and “where” core ideas from one discipline relate to the content of existing standards in another discipline. Unlike infusion, which is a proactive effort to embed relevant learning goals from one discipline into standards for another, mapping is a retrospective activity to (1) draw attention to connections that may or may not have been understood by the developers of the standards; (2) increase the likelihood that educators will use engineering contexts as vehicles for making other subjects, such as science, more engaging; and (3) suggest that engineering materials might be used as a basis for developing curricula or teacher professional development programs. One limitation of mapping is that some important engineering concepts or skills may not map to existing standards.
A similar debate occurred recently in New Jersey with a different result. In June 2009, the New Jersey Board of Education elected to add engineering learning goals to revised standards for technology education rather than to science standards, although the latter was seriously considered by state officials (McGrath, 2009).